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To think they can change 3 page

the machine shop. “It would have been fun if he had gotten to teach me how to use a mill and

lathe. But unfortunately I never went, because I was more interested in electronics.”

One summer Paul took Steve to Wisconsin to visit the family’s dairy farm. Rural life did not

appeal to Steve, but one image stuck with him. He saw a calf being born, and he was amazed

when the tiny animal struggled up within minutes and began to walk.

“It was not something she had learned, but it was instead hardwired into her,” he recalled. “A

human baby couldn’t do that. I found it remarkable, even though no one else did.” He put it in

hardware-software terms: “It was as if something in the animal’s body and in its brain had been

engineered to work together instantly rather than being learned.”

In ninth grade Jobs went to Homestead High, which had a sprawling campus of two-story

cinderblock buildings painted pink that served two thousand students. “It was designed by a

famous prison architect,” Jobs recalled. “They wanted to make it indestructible.” He had

developed a love of walking, and he walked the fifteen blocks to school by himself each day.

He had few friends his own age, but he got to know some seniors who were immersed in the

counterculture of the late 1960s. It was a time when the geek and hippie worlds were beginning to

show some overlap. “My friends were the really smart kids,” he said. “I was interested in math

and science and electronics. They were too, and also into LSD and the whole counterculture trip.”

His pranks by then typically involved electronics. At one point he wired his house with

speakers. But since speakers can also be used as microphones, he built a control room in his

closet, where he could listen in on what was happening in other rooms. One night, when he had

his headphones on and was listening in on his parents’ bedroom, his father caught him and angrily

demanded that he dismantle the system. He spent many evenings visiting the garage of Larry

Lang, the engineer who lived down the street from his old house. Lang eventually gave Jobs the

carbon microphone that had fascinated him, and he turned him on to Heathkits, those assemble-ityourself

kits for making ham radios and other electronic gear that were beloved by the soldering

set back then. “Heathkits came with all the boards and parts color-coded, but the manual also

explained the theory of how it operated,” Jobs recalled. “It made you realize you could build and

understand anything. Once you built a couple of radios, you’d see a TV in the catalogue and say,

‘I can build that as well,’ even if you didn’t. I was very lucky, because when I was a kid both my

dad and the Heathkits made me believe I could build anything.”

Lang also got him into the Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club,

a group of fifteen or so students who met in the company cafeteria on Tuesday nights. “They

would get an engineer from one of the labs to come and talk about what he was working on,” Jobs



recalled. “My dad would drive me there. I was in heaven. HP was a pioneer of light-emitting

diodes. So we talked about what to do with them.” Because his father now worked for a laser

company, that topic particularly interested him. One night he cornered one of HP’s laser engineers

after a talk and got a tour of the holography lab. But the most lasting impression came from seeing

the small computers the company was developing. “I saw my first desktop computer there. It was

called the 9100A, and it was a glorified calculator but also really the first desktop computer. It was

huge, maybe forty pounds, but it was a beauty of a thing. I fell in love with it.”

The kids in the Explorers Club were encouraged to do projects, and Jobs decided to build a

frequency counter, which measures the number of pulses per second in an electronic signal. He

needed some parts that HP made, so he picked up the phone and called the CEO. “Back then,

people didn’t have unlisted numbers. So I looked up Bill Hewlett in Palo Alto and called him at

home. And he answered and chatted with me for twenty minutes. He got me the parts, but he also

got me a job in the plant where they made frequency counters.” Jobs worked there the summer

after his freshman year at Homestead High. “My dad would drive me in the morning and pick me

up in the evening.”

His work mainly consisted of “just putting nuts and bolts on things” on an assembly line. There

was some resentment among his fellow line workers toward the pushy kid who had talked his way

in by calling the CEO. “I remember telling one of the supervisors, ‘I love this stuff, I love this

stuff,’ and then I asked him what he liked to do best. And he said, ‘To fuck, to fuck.’” Jobs had an

easier time ingratiating himself with the engineers who worked one floor above. “They served

doughnuts and coffee every morning at ten. So I’d go upstairs and hang out with them.”

Jobs liked to work. He also had a newspaper route—his father would drive him when it was

raining—and during his sophomore year spent weekends and the summer as a stock clerk at a

cavernous electronics store, Haltek. It was to electronics what his father’s junkyards

were to auto parts: a scavenger’s paradise sprawling over an entire city block with new, used,

salvaged, and surplus components crammed onto warrens of shelves, dumped unsorted into bins,

and piled in an outdoor yard. “Out in the back, near the bay, they had a fenced-in area with things

like Polaris submarine interiors that had been ripped and sold for salvage,” he recalled. “All the

controls and buttons were right there. The colors were military greens and grays, but they had

these switches and bulb covers of amber and red. There were these big old lever switches that,

when you flipped them, it was awesome, like you were blowing up Chicago.”

At the wooden counters up front, laden with thick catalogues in tattered binders, people would

haggle for switches, resistors, capacitors, and sometimes the latest memory chips. His father used

to do that for auto parts, and he succeeded because he knew the value of each better than the

clerks. Jobs followed suit. He developed a knowledge of electronic parts that was honed by his

love of negotiating and turning a profit. He would go to electronic flea markets, such as the San

Jose swap meet, haggle for a used circuit board that contained some valuable chips or

components, and then sell those to his manager at Haltek.

Jobs was able to get his first car, with his father’s help, when he was fifteen. It was a two-tone

Nash Metropolitan that his father had fitted out with an MG engine. Jobs didn’t really like it, but

he did not want to tell his father that, or miss out on the chance to have his own car. “In retrospect,

a Nash Metropolitan might seem like the most wickedly cool car,” he later said. “But at the time it

was the most uncool car in the world. Still, it was a car, so that was great.” Within a year he had

saved up enough from his various jobs that he could trade up to a red Fiat 850 coupe with an

Abarth engine. “My dad helped me buy and inspect it. The satisfaction of getting paid and saving

up for something, that was very exciting.”

That same summer, between his sophomore and junior years at Homestead, Jobs began

smoking marijuana. “I got stoned for the first time that summer. I was fifteen, and then began

using pot regularly.” At one point his father found some dope in his son’s Fiat. “What’s this?” he

asked. Jobs coolly replied, “That’s marijuana.” It was one of the few times in his life that he faced

his father’s anger. “That was the

only real fight I ever got in with my dad,” he said. But his father again bent to his will. “He

wanted me to promise that I’d never use pot again, but I wouldn’t promise.” In fact by his senior

year he was also dabbling in LSD and hash as well as exploring the mind-bending effects of sleep

deprivation. “I was starting to get stoned a bit more. We would also drop acid occasionally,

usually in fields or in cars.”

He also flowered intellectually during his last two years in high school and found himself at the

intersection, as he had begun to see it, of those who were geekily immersed in electronics and

those who were into literature and creative endeavors. “I started to listen to music a whole lot, and

I started to read more outside of just science and technology—Shakespeare, Plato. I loved King

Lear.” His other favorites included Moby-Dick and the poems of Dylan Thomas. I asked him why

he related to King Lear and Captain Ahab, two of the most willful and driven characters in

literature, but he didn’t respond to the connection I was making, so I let it drop. “When I was a

senior I had this phenomenal AP English class. The teacher was this guy who looked like Ernest

Hemingway. He took a bunch of us snowshoeing in Yosemite.”

One course that Jobs took would become part of Silicon Valley lore: the electronics class taught

by John McCollum, a former Navy pilot who had a showman’s flair for exciting his students with

such tricks as firing up a Tesla coil. His little stockroom, to which he would lend the key to pet

students, was crammed with transistors and other components he had scored.

McCollum’s classroom was in a shed-like building on the edge of the campus, next to the

parking lot. “This is where it was,” Jobs recalled as he peered in the window, “and here, next door,

is where the auto shop class used to be.” The juxtaposition highlighted the shift from the interests

of his father’s generation. “Mr. McCollum felt that electronics class was the new auto shop.”

McCollum believed in military discipline and respect for authority. Jobs didn’t. His aversion to

authority was something he no longer tried to hide, and he affected an attitude that combined wiry

and weird intensity with aloof rebelliousness. McCollum later said, “He was usually off in a

corner doing something on his own and really didn’t want to have much of anything to do with

either me or the rest of the class.”

He never trusted Jobs with a key to the stockroom. One day Jobs needed a part that was not

available, so he made a collect call to the manufacturer, Burroughs in Detroit, and said he was

designing a new product and wanted to test out the part. It arrived by air freight a few days later.

When McCollum asked how he had gotten it, Jobs described—with defiant pride—the collect call

and the tale he had told. “I was furious,” McCollum said. “That was not the way I wanted my

students to behave.” Jobs’s response was, “I don’t have the money for the phone call. They’ve got

plenty of money.”

Jobs took McCollum’s class for only one year, rather than the three that it was offered. For one

of his projects, he made a device with a photocell that would switch on a circuit when exposed to

light, something any high school science student could have done. He was far more interested in

playing with lasers, something he learned from his father. With a few friends, he created light

shows for parties by bouncing lasers off mirrors that were attached to the speakers of his stereo

system.

CHAPTER TWO

ODD COUPLE

The Two Steves

Jobs and Wozniak in the garage, 1976

Woz

While a student in McCollum’s class, Jobs became friends with a graduate who was the teacher’s

all-time favorite and a school legend for his wizardry in the class. Stephen Wozniak, whose

younger brother had been on a swim team with Jobs, was almost five years older than Jobs and far

more knowledgeable about electronics. But emotionally and socially he was still a high school

geek.

Like Jobs, Wozniak learned a lot at his father’s knee. But their lessons were different. Paul Jobs

was a high school dropout who, when fixing up cars, knew how to turn a tidy profit by striking the

right deal on parts. Francis Wozniak, known as Jerry, was a brilliant engineering graduate from

Cal Tech, where he had quarterbacked the football team, who became a rocket scientist at

Lockheed. He exalted engineering and looked down on those in business, marketing, and sales. “I

remember him telling me that engineering was the highest level of importance you could reach in

the world,” Steve Wozniak later recalled. “It takes society to a new level.”

One of Steve Wozniak’s first memories was going to his father’s workplace on a weekend and

being shown electronic parts, with his dad “putting them on a table with me so I got to play with

them.” He watched with fascination as his father tried to get a waveform line on a video screen to

stay flat so he could show that one of his circuit designs was working properly. “I could see that

whatever my dad was doing, it was important and good.” Woz, as he was known even then, would

ask about the resistors and transistors lying around the house, and his father would pull out a

blackboard to illustrate what they did. “He would explain what a resistor was by going all the way

back to atoms and electrons. He explained how resistors worked when I was in second grade, not

by equations but by having me picture it.”

Woz’s father taught him something else that became ingrained in his childlike, socially

awkward personality: Never lie. “My dad believed in honesty. Extreme honesty. That’s the biggest

thing he taught me. I never lie, even to this day.” (The only partial exception was in the service of

a good practical joke.) In addition, he imbued his son with an aversion to extreme ambition, which

set Woz apart from Jobs. At an Apple product launch event in 2010, forty years after they met,

Woz reflected on their differences. “My father told me, ‘You always want to be in the middle,’”

he said. “I didn’t want to be up with the high-level people like Steve. My dad was an engineer, and

that’s what I wanted to be. I was way too shy ever to be a business leader like Steve.”

By fourth grade Wozniak became, as he put it, one of the “electronics kids.” He had an easier

time making eye contact with a transistor than with a girl, and he developed the chunky and

stooped look of a guy who spends most of his time hunched over circuit boards. At the same age

when Jobs was puzzling over a carbon microphone that

his dad couldn’t explain, Wozniak was using transistors to build an intercom system featuring

amplifiers, relays, lights, and buzzers that connected the kids’ bedrooms of six houses in the

neighborhood. And at an age when Jobs was building Heathkits, Wozniak was assembling a

transmitter and receiver from Hallicrafters, the most sophisticated radios available.

Woz spent a lot of time at home reading his father’s electronics journals, and he became

enthralled by stories about new computers, such as the powerful ENIAC. Because Boolean

algebra came naturally to him, he marveled at how simple, rather than complex, the computers

were. In eighth grade he built a calculator that included one hundred transistors, two hundred

diodes, and two hundred resistors on ten circuit boards. It won top prize in a local contest run by

the Air Force, even though the competitors included students through twelfth grade.

Woz became more of a loner when the boys his age began going out with girls and partying,

endeavors that he found far more complex than designing circuits. “Where before I was popular

and riding bikes and everything, suddenly I was socially shut out,” he recalled. “It seemed like

nobody spoke to me for the longest time.” He found an outlet by playing juvenile pranks. In

twelfth grade he built an electronic metronome—one of those tick-tick-tick devices that keep time

in music class—and realized it sounded like a bomb. So he took the labels off some big batteries,

taped them together, and put it in a school locker; he rigged it to start ticking faster when the

locker opened. Later that day he got called to the principal’s office. He thought it was because he

had won, yet again, the school’s top math prize. Instead he was confronted by the police. The

principal had been summoned when the device was found, bravely ran onto the football field

clutching it to his chest, and pulled the wires off. Woz tried and failed to suppress his laughter. He

actually got sent to the juvenile detention center, where he spent the night. It was a memorable

experience. He taught the other prisoners how to disconnect the wires leading to the ceiling fans

and connect them to the bars so people got shocked when touching them.

Getting shocked was a badge of honor for Woz. He prided himself on being a hardware

engineer, which meant that random shocks

were routine. He once devised a roulette game where four people put their thumbs in a slot;

when the ball landed, one would get shocked. “Hardware guys will play this game, but software

guys are too chicken,” he noted.

During his senior year he got a part-time job at Sylvania and had the chance to work on a

computer for the first time. He learned FORTRAN from a book and read the manuals for most of

the systems of the day, starting with the Digital Equipment PDP-8. Then he studied the specs for

the latest microchips and tried to redesign the computers using these newer parts. The challenge he

set himself was to replicate the design using the fewest components possible. Each night he would

try to improve his drawing from the night before. By the end of his senior year, he had become a

master. “I was now designing computers with half the number of chips the actual company had in

their own design, but only on paper.” He never told his friends. After all, most seventeen-yearolds

were getting their kicks in other ways.

On Thanksgiving weekend of his senior year, Wozniak visited the University of Colorado. It

was closed for the holiday, but he found an engineering student who took him on a tour of the

labs. He begged his father to let him go there, even though the out-of-state tuition was more than

the family could easily afford. They struck a deal: He would be allowed to go for one year, but

then he would transfer to De Anza Community College back home. After arriving at Colorado in

the fall of 1969, he spent so much time playing pranks (such as producing reams of printouts

saying “Fuck Nixon”) that he failed a couple of his courses and was put on probation. In addition,

he created a program to calculate Fibonacci numbers that burned up so much computer time the

university threatened to bill him for the cost. So he readily lived up to his bargain with his parents

and transferred to De Anza.

After a pleasant year at De Anza, Wozniak took time off to make some money. He found work

at a company that made computers for the California Motor Vehicle Department, and a coworker

made him a wonderful offer: He would provide some spare chips so Wozniak could make one of

the computers he had been sketching on paper. Wozniak decided to use as few chips as possible,

both as a personal challenge and because he did not want to take advantage of his colleague’s

largesse.

Much of the work was done in the garage of a friend just around the corner, Bill Fernandez,

who was still at Homestead High. To lubricate their efforts, they drank large amounts of Cragmont

cream soda, riding their bikes to the Sunnyvale Safeway to return the bottles, collect the deposits,

and buy more. “That’s how we started referring to it as the Cream Soda Computer,” Wozniak

recalled. It was basically a calculator capable of multiplying numbers entered by a set of switches

and displaying the results in binary code with little lights.

When it was finished, Fernandez told Wozniak there was someone at Homestead High he

should meet. “His name is Steve. He likes to do pranks like you do, and he’s also into building

electronics like you are.” It may have been the most significant meeting in a Silicon Valley garage

since Hewlett went into Packard’s thirty-two years earlier. “Steve and I just sat on the sidewalk in

front of Bill’s house for the longest time, just sharing stories—mostly about pranks we’d pulled,

and also what kind of electronic designs we’d done,” Wozniak recalled. “We had so much in

common. Typically, it was really hard for me to explain to people what kind of design stuff I

worked on, but Steve got it right away. And I liked him. He was kind of skinny and wiry and full

of energy.” Jobs was also impressed. “Woz was the first person I’d met who knew more

electronics than I did,” he once said, stretching his own expertise. “I liked him right away. I was a

little more mature than my years, and he was a little less mature than his, so it evened out. Woz

was very bright, but emotionally he was my age.”

In addition to their interest in computers, they shared a passion for music. “It was an incredible

time for music,” Jobs recalled. “It was like living at a time when Beethoven and Mozart were

alive. Really. People will look back on it that way. And Woz and I were deeply into it.” In

particular, Wozniak turned Jobs on to the glories of Bob Dylan. “We tracked down this guy in

Santa Cruz who put out this newsletter on Dylan,” Jobs said. “Dylan taped all of his concerts, and

some of the people around him were not scrupulous, because soon there were tapes all around.

Bootlegs of everything. And this guy had them all.”

Hunting down Dylan tapes soon became a joint venture. “The two of us would go tramping

through San Jose and Berkeley and ask about Dylan bootlegs and collect them,” said Wozniak.

“We’d buy brochures

of Dylan lyrics and stay up late interpreting them. Dylan’s words struck chords of creative

thinking.” Added Jobs, “I had more than a hundred hours, including every concert on the ’65 and ’

66 tour,” the one where Dylan went electric. Both of them bought high-end TEAC reel-to-reel

tape decks. “I would use mine at a low speed to record many concerts on one tape,” said Wozniak.

Jobs matched his obsession: “Instead of big speakers I bought a pair of awesome headphones and

would just lie in my bed and listen to that stuff for hours.”

Jobs had formed a club at Homestead High to put on music-and-light shows and also play

pranks. (They once glued a gold-painted toilet seat onto a flower planter.) It was called the Buck

Fry Club, a play on the name of the principal. Even though they had already graduated, Wozniak

and his friend Allen Baum joined forces with Jobs, at the end of his junior year, to produce a

farewell gesture for the departing seniors. Showing off the Homestead campus four decades later,

Jobs paused at the scene of the escapade and pointed. “See that balcony? That’s where we did the

banner prank that sealed our friendship.” On a big bedsheet Baum had tie-dyed with the school’s

green and white colors, they painted a huge hand flipping the middle-finger salute. Baum’s nice

Jewish mother helped them draw it and showed them how to do the shading and shadows to make

it look more real. “I know what that is,” she snickered. They devised a system of ropes and pulleys

so that it could be dramatically lowered as the graduating class marched past the balcony, and they

signed it “SWAB JOB,” the initials of Wozniak and Baum combined with part of Jobs’s name.

The prank became part of school lore—and got Jobs suspended one more time.

Another prank involved a pocket device Wozniak built that could emit TV signals. He would

take it to a room where a group of people were watching TV, such as in a dorm, and secretly press

the button so that the screen would get fuzzy with static. When someone got up and whacked the

set, Wozniak would let go of the button and the picture would clear up. Once he had the

unsuspecting viewers hopping up and down at his will, he would make things harder. He would

keep the picture fuzzy until someone touched the antenna. Eventually he would make people think

they had to hold the antenna while standing on one foot or touching the top of the set. Years later,

at a keynote presentation

where he was having his own trouble getting a video to work, Jobs broke from his script and

recounted the fun they had with the device. “Woz would have it in his pocket and we’d go into a

dorm . . . where a bunch of folks would be, like, watching Star Trek, and he’d screw up the TV,

and someone would go up to fix it, and just as they had the foot off the ground he would turn it

back on, and as they put their foot back on the ground he’d screw it up again.” Contorting himself

into a pretzel onstage, Jobs concluded to great laughter, “And within five minutes he would have

someone like this.”

The Blue Box

The ultimate combination of pranks and electronics—and the escapade that helped to create

Apple—was launched one Sunday afternoon when Wozniak read an article in Esquire that his

mother had left for him on the kitchen table. It was September 1971, and he was about to drive off

the next day to Berkeley, his third college. The story, Ron Rosenbaum’s “Secrets of the Little

Blue Box,” described how hackers and phone phreakers had found ways to make long-distance

calls for free by replicating the tones that routed signals on the AT&T network. “Halfway through

the article, I had to call my best friend, Steve Jobs, and read parts of this long article to him,”

Wozniak recalled. He knew that Jobs, then beginning his senior year, was one of the few people

who would share his excitement.

A hero of the piece was John Draper, a hacker known as Captain Crunch because he had

discovered that the sound emitted by the toy whistle that came with the breakfast cereal was the

same 2600 Hertz tone used by the phone network’s call-routing switches. It could fool the system

into allowing a long-distance call to go through without extra charges. The article revealed that

other tones that served to route calls could be found in an issue of the Bell System Technical

Journal, which AT&T immediately began asking libraries to pull from their shelves.

As soon as Jobs got the call from Wozniak that Sunday afternoon, he knew they would have to

get their hands on the technical journal right away. “Woz picked me up a few minutes later, and

we went to the library at SLAC [the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center] to see if we could find

it,” Jobs recounted. It was Sunday and the library was closed, but they knew how to get in through

a door that was rarely locked. “I remember that we were furiously digging through the stacks, and

it was Woz who finally found the journal with all the frequencies. It was like, holy shit, and we

opened it and there it was. We kept saying to ourselves, ‘It’s real. Holy shit, it’s real.’ It was all

laid out—the tones, the frequencies.”

Wozniak went to Sunnyvale Electronics before it closed that evening and bought the parts to

make an analog tone generator. Jobs had built a frequency counter when he was part of the HP

Explorers Club, and they used it to calibrate the desired tones. With a dial, they could replicate

and tape-record the sounds specified in the article. By midnight they were ready to test it.

Unfortunately the oscillators they used were not quite stable enough to replicate the right chirps to

fool the phone company. “We could see the instability using Steve’s frequency counter,” recalled

Wozniak, “and we just couldn’t make it work. I had to leave for Berkeley the next morning, so we

decided I would work on building a digital version once I got there.”

No one had ever created a digital version of a Blue Box, but Woz was made for the challenge.

Using diodes and transistors from Radio Shack, and with the help of a music student in his dorm

who had perfect pitch, he got it built before Thanksgiving. “I have never designed a circuit I was


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